I have always been one to so easily lose myself, to be lured so very far away, in a painting, a song, a window…
In the years of his cussing at me, I would often detach, escape, into this 1890 white-wooden-framed window… Thank you, Vincent.
I was overweight and often wore comfortable, baggy, masculine clothes. He said dresses did not look good on me. My hair was much shorter then. He said I didn’t look good with it longer.
I was trapped in that marriage, I always (erroneously) felt. From the beginning, it seemed. From the very, very hesitant, “I do” when I was six months pregnant. Twenty-four slow years of the same-old cycle (after cycle), same broken record played over and over.
I wanted to be the young lady in the painting. Mostly because she was far away from the cigarette-butt-and-beer-can scented patio. Mostly because I bet she could hear the birds singing. Mostly because I felt the freedom in the breeze that teased her tresses and hem.
When he finally agreed to leave once and for all, he took the painting. I think he knew…
My daughter wanted to get it back for me. Eventually, I asked too. He said no. This past Christmas, my daughter was going to get me a replica. I told her I don’t really want it anymore, that he ruined even that for me.
But then I realized, I didn’t need it anymore. Because I was now her.
Cussing cacophony chokes me. Into my secret garden, I escape; surrounded by white flowers and open air, I inhale both in deeply. If his bowl were not empty, the words would not be so nasty. A bottle smashes, but I know I will only be beaten verbally. I run farther into the open fields until all I can hear is the birds’ sweet euphony soothing me. The lady left behind is a statue of stone. Eventually, he will pass out cold. I’ll stay out here a while longer, tuck behind my ear a keepsake wildflower, run my fingers over the soft-tipped grasses, consider staying forever on the other side of this glass, but I can’t leave her. I head back. Morning rays have again made their rounds, but upon the wet pillow, a petal has drowned.
But that was then, and this is now.
Thank you, love, for the continuous cleaning of the mirrorsof my past, for your endless patience, for making meevery day blush calling me beautiful and princess, for being my rain and sun blooming me into this miracle of self-love .
I’ve toed a lot of lines in my life. I’ve toed them recently. I will toe them again today.
My spring out of bed has become inconsistent. My sleep, interrupted. I wake to report to that line again, and that is a different kind of waking. To take my shift to relieve my unconscious self to defend my inner sanctuary boundary-border. Again. It’s exhausting. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s not what I was designed for.
I am more than this.
I was beaten when they breached my outer border. But I’ve since recovered. Now I stand resolute at the final white-picket fence, last patch of wildflowers inside. I feel strong again. Weaponless by choice. A pacifist maybe.
The dust of the corporate stampede settles as the hooves come to a halt. And here we are again. At the line. I toe the dirt with my bare feet, my dress hemline soiled. My head is not bowed. I took into eyes. I look to the heavens. I look back into the eyes.
I am passionate. In all things. I used to think it was my blessing and my curse. But then self-love took hold and merged with my faith in loving, divine, individual creation, so now I think, though I’m still on the journey of discovery and understanding and potential, that my passion is only a blessing.
I taste the indignant feelings rising, mixed into the saliva of my mouth. It is not fear that causes me to swallow it back down. There is no fight or flight in me now. There is only strength and unhurried contemplation. I weigh it all. I need to free myself from the weight.
I hear your voice. And I still myself in hopes of His.
It is silent enough inside me that I can hear the whisper of each petal the breeze gives voice to. There is indeed a great injustice here. A war of the world and the self. A war of the ages. And the individual never wins. I feel I was born to take this stand, though I know it will make no difference in the war. It is indeed personal. But it is mostly the morality that is part of my blood, flowing in and out of my heart.
I will bow gracefully. But not for them. For me. For my wildflower patch.
The two-headed serpent will reside among us. Its poison can no longer make me sick. I will see to it that my flowers flourish despite his presence, slithering so deceitfully all around us.
The corporate stampede stand-off I have stirred in my rebellion retreats with patronizing words I pretend I am too ignorant to perceive.
I turn my attention away from them and him, and begin again to love, to mother,
The dirt returns to white sand, the waves resume their soothing music. I return to showing my flowers how unique each is and all they are capable of becoming, come the May winds….
Sunny and 70s this weekend in northwest Florida but with enough seasonal variety to get to experience some autumn colors alongside the re-flowering trees. I meant to go to the ocean but ended up staying in my yard. It’s just so quiet and peaceful here, and that’s really what I needed most this weekend, especially since our house guests are out of town. It’s late Sunday afternoon now; I’m still in my pajamas and still procrastinating starting my schoolwork…. maybe after this blog post on the patio…
I thought I’d let you into my head a bit, since there is never a dull moment there. 🙂 This morning as the sun rose and dried the raindrops from the leaves, I enjoyed some nature photography. In my backyard. 🙂
A friend recently asked what kind of camera I use. Ummmm, an outdated and malfunctioning iPhone (8) and whatever photo editing app it came with. My old Canon is no longer working, though I really do need to try harder to revive it. I’m not one to spend money, and I hate updates and changing what I’m familiar and comfortable with. My daughter has the pro gear (and newer phone), but I’ve yet to borrow or learn it. I have an inherited camera too I’ve been meaning to play with. So me and my on-its-last-leg iPhone out back this morning….
If you know anything about me, you know it would be the wildflowers and white flowers that would call to me the most. From inside, on my way to make morning coffee (after going back to sleep earlier since I woke with a headache), the familiar white wildflowers drew me out. I loved that they were still blooming and wanted to capture them against the autumn-leaves background. There is such pure and soulful beauty I find in white blossoms, so this was my main therapy after my emotionally-turbulent week. Ahhhh…
I find nature the most therapeutic for me when I focus on the details, the tinier the better. I suppose that makes sense. When I’m spiraling out of control from an emotional trigger that trips a mine from my traumatic, buried past, the one who knows me best (I’ve recently caught on to this..) tells me something very specific in our conversation, a unique detail. I tend to focus on it. I tend to forget the rest for a moment or two. It’s a grasp for me, something to hold onto. Sometimes, that’s all that’s needed to stop the free fall. I focus on the folds in petals, the almost-evaporated drops from last night’s (all-too-coincidentally-metaphoric) rain, the tiniest bright stars in the unfurled center. It centers me. Again.
This one entranced me the most, like a beautiful ballet, its story performed without words but deeply felt…
Then there’s simply the beauty of autumn’s bright leaves, which I do not take for granted living in the South.
In just about every subject I frame in my lens, I also find a story or lesson. I begin my autumn adventure with the nest in the nook of my eucalyptus tree. This tree is not the mother of these leaves, but then again, home is sometimes found, and families can be made outside of genes, and both of these can save a soul.
(Here is the eucalyptus’ biological offspring:)
Next, as tends to happen, I notice and go out of my way to admire and showcase the beauty in the imperfect. I chose this leaf to be the star today.
I’m sure the ones who were more “whole” and less “marred” were confused. Like with flowers and seashells, I find the most powerfully-moving stories in the subjects that many would overlook or toss back, reject. We are all imperfect, though; we all have our scars, and with each, a very personal story, usually untold. Yet how similar, I’m sure, our hidden fears and pains are. The light seems to find all of us equally though, as a saving, nonjudgmental love.
This leads me also to respect the shadows. This bright red evoked a somber mood. I paused a while to pay homage.
This next green leaf intrigued me so! Among the astonishing inner workings, a very distinct marking gave my imagination the lead in metaphorical hypotheses formation: an internal imaging picture revealing the disease or alien or parasite inside; a tattoo (and what does it symbolize?); a birthmark; a branding; an astrological sign? Victim, chosen savior, scarred warrior? Its emblem is seared into my mind’s eye.
Nearby, another attention capturer, the decay in such stark contrast to the green stem. A charred lung having always been fed plenty of oxygen. Self-asphyxiation? Leaving or returning to life? Maybe the later stages of the disease above? Open back up the valve to your heart! Choose to receive the love! (I told you there’s never a dull moment in my mind…)
In this next one, I find the bittersweet. The sun’s rays have found this one and are comfortingly drying the pool of tears. Such a tender and touching healing story, especially since the leaf has detached from its life source. Perhaps the rays are the forgiveness before death, all amends made before the soul leaves the body to be lifted. Is there anything left unspoken in your own heart today?…
Don’t worry, I’ve saved the most lighthearted for last! 🙂 Here we have the strawberry or the rose (shhhh…don’t let it hear you say its a leaf!). We can really be whatever we choose to be, can we not? This one made me smile. Now I could manipulate the leaves to create such a capture, but when I find it naturally so, it makes it so much better.
And there you have it: a glimpse of what it’s like to be in Laura’s head when far away in the nearness of nature. I’d like to stay lost forever. I don’t think I’d miss the world. Wherever I go though, I promise to always send you rays of light, reflected with my lenses. ❤
When it comes to my photography, editing to me is not perfecting, so I suppose I should call it altering; it is transforming creatively the tone, literarily, though that often comes from color changes, cooling or warming, fading or imbuing, really a canvas with my technology as the brush, though you would be surprised with the media I use, an old iPhone about to give out and whatever standard editing app it came with.
My lab is my mind’s eye in reverse, creating what my soul wishes to express, I but a medium myself. I play until the aha moment, always knowing that is exactly what I was looking for. Each starting photo, a message itself I collect from nature. Sometimes it speaks as is, especially when it is lit. Sometimes it lends itself, whispers, “Do with me what you may, May Child; my metamorphism is in your trusted hands. Make me the more you believe I am.”
Sometimes I feel the nature challenges me in this way to keep going beyond and beyond, rebirthing new ways, not godlike, but godchildlike, spending my days attune to the spirit in the petals and breezes, in the rays and the blades, in the insect and the web. I create with images I creatively capture, crouched down and over the barely noticed, shrinking further than Alice into the macroworld, still infused with wonder, perhaps even more so. With each alteration, a new message, perhaps divinely inspired.
I do my duties in the world so I can retreat––into the yard, into myself, into the absence of voices except my inner one and the whispers from butterflies and the birdsong, and I listen and listen for The One as I visit my many companions of the natural realm. Often, I bring heaven down. To earth. Though I find enough evidence that it is already here. All about us. And as much as I avoid the humans, I know the greatest purpose here is to love one another. My purpose the same but from afar. Bringing light and hope to you is how I try to do my part.
The things we edit…
Often, in relation, we edit by removing blemishes, by cropping out all the real, showcasing our best fake versions of ourselves and our lives, for behind the cameras lie the whole truths. We compete. We turn the cameras around onto the shells of our selves, lose the nature and others, snapshots of ourselves as the universe’s center, lenses in reverse yet outward, for our inner selves are not the focus.
There are pieces of heaven in each of us. Because we were each made the way He intended. What we make of ourselves from what we were given: that is the welcomed art of continued collaborative creation. Excavate the light within. Keep painting with your truest inner discovered colors. We should never settle for being done when we are each and all continued masterpieces in progress. May we never fade permanently to sepia or still life; though both of these are essential to the process.
I still believe we can beautifully alter all of this…
When my son last visited, he played this song a lot on our Bluetooth speaker while he and his girlfriend and my daughter stayed up all hours playing board games (while I tried to sleep in the master suite of the ranch on the other side of the door). It’s a song he really feels, like the movie. At the first notes, when it comes on the radio now when he is not present, I immediately change it. To “control” my sadness. I try to avoid thinking about him and his sadness and his addiction, him as Bradley Cooper in the movie. It just hurts too much.
It was the mention of the movie and allusion to the song in passing on social media that stemmed this writing spree in me though. I connected with a fellow English teacher-poet on Instagram where I usually just post and go without actually socializing. I am one to put a song on repeat for hours, for days, to feel, to lose myself in the zone, to somewhere it seems I am being led, but only hitting repeat on max volume on my earbuds and a lot of patience simply lingering at the portal is necessary. To let myself feel without thinking for once. For a long while…
I listened to the soundtrack while sweating through yard work. Then I watched the video… and cried. What a sad movie. One of his favorites, of course. I could never remove the movie from myself now. I didn’t know that that Instagram post I “ran across” by someone I did not yet “follow” would lead me here, to pouring out prose, whether or not I post it or lock it up. I knew it was going to mean something though. I believe strongly in paths crossing for reasons.
I need this. To let my fingers fly free across the keyboard in prose again. To feel the release that comes from that and also through music.
I connect the most in songs to the non-words, the soul eruptions that exceed alpha-translation. That is what pain and love is, after all. And the fall. For me, it is the rise of the wailing “uhs” and “ohs,” and in voices like Lady Gaga’s and Calum Scott’s (“Dancing On My Own”).
In “Shallow,” that point is the moment of free fall. And free fall… could end or not end in a limited number of ways, albeit in limitless places, could be initiated or not initiated for so many reasons, could be the beginning or the end. For me, regarding all of this, it is that push to the edge at the end of my marriage, when I could no longer breathe, and my panic-attacked heart raced as if it were going to give out once and for all. The 2:42 point of no return is when I leapt, screaming on the way down that I have had all I could take, not being able to see the bottom, leaping entirely with the final no-turning-back point of faith, faith I would crash through the mirage of the surface into the “anything more than this.”
I am happy to report, it was the best jump I ever made. The one that saved me. I didn’t want to have wings. I just wanted to crash through it to the other side. Full speed. Once and for all.
I am also keenly aware that others feel that same desperateness and take the leap to leave this life altogether. The song’s narrator makes it clear she will never meet the ground though. I feel a need and calling to string nets for every jumper off course. So they are forced back up and can only pass through the same portal as me and her, only with faith and courage. In the more that is here in this life.
May angels escort each at the edge. To safety. To life.
When I was a child, I simply and casually went with the flow. I don’t think that’s common, but maybe it is for the good middle children, as such was I. Even when my parents announced their divorce, I took it in stride, felt it was best for all. Mom said it would hit me, affect me, someday. It never did.
In grade school, maybe sooner, I discovered the joy of being funny, of making others laugh. I’ve never shied away from a performance; I’m quite comfortable on stage, enjoy being the center of attention, the life of the party. Later in life, I believe being a comedian became a defense mechanism. But at the same time, I did and still do truly like making people smile. All people. That is not to say, as I will have come to learn, that I was ever actually an extrovert.
I think humor became a defense mechanism as an adult when I began hiding my personal life, all of those pesky elephants that kept trying to escape from the horrific circus of my home; we never discussed those giants, inside or outside those walls, as families tend to not do when alcoholism and addiction and denial are involved.
Eventually, my smile became that wall, and evolved further into a fortress, as many smiles do, I suppose, separating inner and outer worlds. Eventually, I even kept the fake one on at home. In front of the children anyway. And to avoid upsetting the alcoholic. I made my alcoholic’s life as cushy as possible. I became a liar, to everyone. To myself. I lost myself eventually, as spouses of alcoholics often do, I suppose.
It must be my nature, it seems, to be a peacemaker, a people pleaser. At work, I still go with the flow; I’m the one you can give the difficult tasks and people to. I don’t complain. I don’t resent. I am intrinsically motivated. I make do. I succeed. As resistant as they are, I relentlessly try to make my teenage students smile.
Where am I going with this as I sit on my patio watching the sun set, filling a blank screen with a supposed “nature essay?” As I recount my life, as I flip through my mental album, I search for the point in which nature infused my soul. No epiphany comes to mind. This seems essential as an essayist. To reflect on those pivotal or deeply seared moments.
I was very regularly exposed to nature as a child, so I am happy to give my parents partial credit: dad took us fishing and camping, we went to week-long summer camps each year, we were sent outside to play as a lifestyle. It became natural then for me to take my own family camping and on nature walks and outings as a lifestyle. And as my nest becomes emptier and my tie to one alcoholic dissolved, I am finding the ability, the freedom, to be able to be present in nature’s moments, more so than ever before, even as a child.
I do have twinges of near epiphany when I think about how many miles I rode my bike as a teenager. Alone. How those wheels and that wind set me free, how I escaped and left my siblings and parents behind, chose my own direction, traveled in and out time. Myself and the outdoors were all the company I needed. I discovered peace. I discovered healing. For as long as I can remember, I also remember not fitting in, feeling a sort of detachment. It is still how I feel, content in my surroundings but still an outsider looking in, bored only in the company of others, never in the company of myself. Especially when I am surrounded by nature.
Never before until now have I had the accumulated experiences I have to see all that I see in the overlooked daily wonders, gifts, and blessings so abundant all about me in the natural world. Perhaps I see myself in these stories that each petal and leaf and shell whisper to me. Perhaps these are the missing pages of my album I collect on the shore, in the trees, in the clouds. Perhaps it is my nature, that deep connection. Perhaps my home. Maybe going with the flow in all of my memories is because I always have been, even before my birth, from the soulline of Mother Nature and the universe.
Maybe I really search only for the light in my lens for myself. But I faithfully reflect the rays as inspiration and positivity to you, because of all the things I remember, I’ve always liked to make people feel better. And maybe each of these clues, each of these messages, each of these revelations are the manageable peanuts I am meant to open one by one, left by those invisible elephants of my past.
Nothing perpendicular nor parallel nor artificial about the clouds, the only construction in how they are always self-shifting, in motion, morphing into pictures and infinite undefined shapes. No straight lines to not cross nor borders boxing in the imagination, already dissected and discarded by the non-hands of mortal science “experts,” the angels that form them, sunset color them, exercising their talents even in heaven, a role for every soul based on their former heart’s passions, now freed from binding form themselves. How can one ever look away from the clouds?
Why must I ever be called from this intriguing trance? What non-essential obligations must disrupt my lackadaisical, free-roaming, playfully-romping musings? How long can I get away with this get-away, setting dream after fantasy after dream asail on these departing wisps and puffs of hope? I wish I could say what I thought about all day, but the elusive intangible keeps flitting from capture; no, not flitting – much slower, matching the amoeba motion of the white ink blots. Leave me in peace with such ungraspable endless possibilities of these Rorschach mind concoctions.
I hear someone coming. Dragon and Pegasus swoop down to scoop me up, but today I think I’ll hop onto Sea Turtle’s back. “Take me away further into that endless perfect blue, my friend.”
Is it wrong that my favorite companions are clustered water droplets?
I was sitting out on the patio this morning after the rains, writing, or attempting to, taking a typing break, messaging a friend about my struggle to get back into prose writing; I think my DNA has morphed since being rebirthed back into a poet. I was realizing that my own nature photos have come to be my writing prompts, how poetry flows out of me, but prose tends to resist the dance, or maybe it is that my poetic muses hog the dance floor, not to show off but because they can’t help themselves when they feel that music rising up from within.
Then a hummingbird flew up to me, looked into my eyes, and darted away.
For whatever reason, it moved me to tears. I was so giddy, absolutely thrilled about the special encounter. Hummingbirds have previously been so elusive, always in and out of my peripheral or having disappeared up ahead before I can really get a good look. I heard its arrival before I saw it, those loud pulsating wings startling me before I could realize what was happening: a messenger sent to me. And a writing prompt.
I did not capture the bird in my photographic lens. It would have been impossible to react that quickly. I’m actually quite glad I witnessed the experience directly, eye to eye. I have no proof it happened. I personally have no proof hummingbirds exist at all. But it left me with the hard-to-describe feelings and emotions and soulful connection that nature is to me. It was Mother Nature saying, “Oh dear child, write your stories, with or without the photo: it’s all within you.” Okay, maybe that last part was my friend’s words, which have also come to nest within my heart.
In the memory of those wildly beating wings that left my heart the same, I am reminded that spiritual encounters have such effect. When I feel the celestial presence in those silent, soulful moments, in nature, in my faith, it is usually imprint-less in every concrete way. No evidence. No souvenir. No artifact for the museums. But the miracles still happen. And I wonder if that’s the condition of miracles. They can only be felt, or seen in the absence of any other witness. And it seems to me from the undeniable intensity, that feeling is the most reliable sense we have been so lovingly implanted with. That abstract sixth sense. The invisible thread that ties us to where we came from and where we will return to, that ultimate home that exists without concrete proof. No picture of the beyond, except the gateway in the clouds, golden-lined. Except in the bud on the verge of opening. Except in the ray that reaches through the dark wood. Except in the display the sunset paints. Except in the lyrics of the songbird. Except in the ancient secrets of the sea’s wise waves. Except in the grandest mountaintop view of a minuscule piece of the universe. Except in the wings of a messenger, a hummingbird on a Sunday morn.
As long as I can feel, I can write about nature, about my faith, the two inseparably entwined. With or without the photograph. With or without even my eyes. With or without rhyme. The reason is all I need: I was born with a sixth sense that wildly beats, like a hummingbird’s wings in me.
Reinvention of the self, a mosaic, from pieces forged and discovered– some to be polished, painted, others best with the coatings of dust and dirt.
Have you found yourself?
I’ve been rethinking this concept lately. For me, I have never really been looking for myself but rather my home, that place where I feel completely welcome, where I am already accurately and wholly known, where I can be completely, freely me, where I’ve been missed, where it makes sense, where it feels just right. My soul has always been restless. As a girl and teen, I always felt different, in a sense, like I couldn’t really relate to others. I think because I was always thinking, philosophizing, dreaming. Feeling seemed to be my superpower–not in sensitivity but in depth. I have always thought and felt too deeply about things. I have always been an old soul, have always felt like I’m just not in the right time period or realm.
An example of this–well, I think I wrote a poem about it once. Let me grab it… Here it is:
This group of freckles on my forearm has me mooning, time-warping to childhood…
Funny how even then, felt like these freckles meant something, seemed like a constellation, a coding, a knowing, a piece of the puzzle of me.
Funny how even then when we would travel at night in the station wagon, I pondered if the street lights spelled out a message that you could only see from a distance…
Funny how even then I would get lost in my own philosophical thoughts, felt a bit out of sorts when others seemed so content splashing in shallow waters when I was so anxious to explore the depths of the sea.
Now at 44, I find myself mulling over those same mysteries, a calling to me, a profound knowing that there’s not only so much more, but somehow that so much more involves me, and not passively.
Do I believe in destiny? Perhaps partially.
I feel like I was born to love but also to defend, sword in hand…
I wonder how my story will end.
I look for clues in the freckle tattoo…
Yep, that definitely fits right in with my current contemplation… I think it’s a combination for me of looking for my place–my home–and also myself. For a while now, I’ve just assumed that I would not find this internal place and peace in this life, and that was okay with me; I have always intended to make the most of it. But lately, I am finding that I am actually getting very close. I am finding along the way pieces of myself. I just don’t know if it is a mosaicking process of creating myself or if it is a collection of clues that lead to myself. I like the idea of both.
This all came up this evening because I was looking at some pictures of wildflowers I recently took, lol (see what I mean about getting lost in thought?…) Wildflowers speak to my soul, plain and simple. The meeker, the smaller, the more tattered, the more beautiful to me, the stronger the pull, the more complex the silent stories… White/ivory flowers have the same kind of spiritual effect on me. Framing fragile, wild “weeds” in the first or last rays of the day… that is my soul in a photograph. Just something about it… a piece, a clue, for sure.
I have a very strong connection to nature. It’s where I prefer to be. It’s where I feel I belong. I would rather watch the clouds all day and all night than do any of those things others like to do. That makes me a freak to some, I suppose; my family makes fun of me for it. While most flocked to tourist attractions over spring break, I lived the dream: poetry, photography, and nature. At home. Lots of pajama time. Lots of coffee and tea. (Hence the abundance of posts on Sunday, my last day to indulge in my hobbies before work began again.) Although I am rather socially fearless and can easily be the life of a party, I would rather be home alone doing my own thing. I think I would be quite content as a hermit, preferably a writer in a small, cozy cottage amidst diverse nature.
So wildflowers are a clue along the trail of myself, or the trail home, or a piece I choose to include in my “me” mural.
past the flower beds I seek colors of the wild to appease my soul
I sit for a while let my inner light visit no place like this home
The morning after writing this post, I discovered my friend’s beautiful video capturing one of his “children’s” books (with his gorgeous artwork and inspired by his dear chickens). It made me cry. And the timing and relevance…so special. Please do take a moment to be moved. Please do yourself the favor of enjoying more of John’s work and soul: https://mylifewithgracie.com/2021/03/20/a-read-beside-me-book-video/